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China coal shortage: Weed killers, pesticides costlier.

Date: 26-10-2021
Subject: China coal shortage: Weed killers, pesticides costlier
Nagpur: Shortage of coal leading to power cuts in China and stricter monitoring of environment there has made glyphosate — the controversial chemical used to make herbicides of different brands seen as quick remedy by farmers in India — costly. Acephate, a pesticide used by cotton growers, has also become costlier due to similar reasons. 

Glyphosate is reported to be widely used by farmers growing unauthorized herbicide-tolerant cotton. Roundup as it is known in the common terms, glyphosate is used to clear weeds from the farms. The increase in prices of glyphosate coincides with the farm workers also demanding higher wages this year. 

Despite the controversies over alleged cancer risks due to the chemical, glyphosate is seen as a cheaper alternative to manual removing of weeds by engaging labourers. 

Market sources said a bottle of glyphosate is now costing over Rs425 as against Rs300 to Rs340 earlier. Fresh stock has been priced at Rs435. Farmers end up spending Rs4,000-odd on glyphosate on an average. The cost increases with the land holdings. 

A bottle of Acephate now costs Rs950 as against Rs650 earlier. The reasons are the same. 

Pankaj Bothra of M/s Bothra Agro in Yavatmal said by the time rates actually shot up, farmers had finished spraying. However, it may have impact in the input cost next season. 

Higher rainfall this year has led to major overgrowth in the fields. Farmers also have to clear the fields of cotton and soyabean plants to clear the land for rabi cultivation. For this, glyphosate will be needed in a substantial quantity. 

Sources say the industry depends on Chinese imports for making both herbicides and pesticides. Yellow phosphorus is a major raw material going into glyphosate. Shortage of coal has hit the manufacturing of yellow phosphorus, in turn, increasing the cost for Indian manufacturers. 

An industry veteran shared a note which says Chinese government has increased inspections for environment protection there. This has also affected the production of yellow phosphorus, apart from power cuts. 

Supply bottlenecks in China has also led to increase in the cost of raw materials of pesticides across the board. A note shared by an official of a leading domestic manufacturer shows an average price increase of 50% in the ingredients used in making almost 18 types of pesticide molecules. 

The impact has not been passed on to the farmers in most of the products yet. However, there are chances that the MRP may be hiked by 20% in the coming days. Once the MRP is revised, there is little chance for the rates to be brought down even after the situation normalizes, said the source. 

Harish Mehta, a senior advisor of Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), said prices of only those molecules that have limited or no production in India have surged. Major MNCs have their units in China and see it as an opportune moment to build up the inventory and exploit the situation. 

“The situation again highlights the need to focus on make in India and also include agrochemicals in the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme delinking the product from petrochemicals. This will encourage indigenous manufacturing,” said Mehta. 


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